Panel to study Balto. County redistricting

January 23, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

A six-member panel of former elected officials and county leaders will study the Baltimore County Council's redistricting process and recommend changes by May 1, the council announced yesterday.

Council members came under fire last summer for the way they drafted council district maps to conform with census data. Activists around the county complained that the process was done too quickly and with too little opportunity for public input.

None of the panel members was among last summer's protesters, but all have experience with the county government. John V. Murphy and James S. Finney are former councilmen, and John A. Donaho was a member of the group that drafted the county charter. The other members are Bert Booth, a former state delegate and county League of Women Voters president; Irving P. McPhail, chancellor of the Community College of Baltimore County; and Sanford V. Teplitzky, a member of the county Board of Education.

At last night's meeting, three councilmen introduced a new version of a bill requiring landlords to register properties with the county.

Community activists have been calling for rental registration for years, saying that existing procedures are inadequate to force landlords to comply with zoning and livability codes.

Councilmen Vincent J. Gardina of Perry Hall and John A. Olszewski Sr. of Dundalk, both Democrats, and Republican Wayne M. Skinner of Towson introduced a registration bill six months ago, but it has been delayed repeatedly as the sponsors have attempted to address criticism from landlords, renters and real estate groups.

In the new version, landlords would have to allow a code enforcement officer to inspect a dwelling unit for potential violations, but units would be investigated only if they are the subject of complaints, said Arnold Jablon, the director of the Department of Permits and Development Management, who helped draft the bill.

Property owners who fail to get a license would be fined $1,000, plus per-day penalties.

Sponsors said this version is designed to encourage all landlords to comply. Licenses would be granted automatically, and landlords would have until June 1 to register. The bill would not apply to large apartment complexes.

The council also passed a bill banning the construction of cellular phone towers in historic or scenic areas.

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